The Art of Storytelling

“Moonrise at Milky Way Creek”

Everywhere you look nowadays it seems everyone has a camera. Phone cameras, iPad cameras, helmet cameras, drones with cameras, and the list goes on. These cameras are also getting better and better with more megapixels, resolution, and ease of use. We also have one click photo filters and easy to use editing software available. As of this writing there are over 200,000 images uploaded to Facebook and over 27,800 to Instagram every minute. Every MINUTE. So try to imagine how many images get posted in a single day on the internet. It’s mind blowing to say the least. It’s also a sobering fact if you’re trying to get noticed.

Abandoned structures always have a story to tell…

Photography is now, and has been for some time, in the hands of the masses. While I don’t think that an iPhone camera will replace a DSLR anytime soon, it has now become easier than ever for anyone to jump into the field. It also means that we are now inundated with images across the internet from the good to the bad and everything in between. So how does one stand out from the pack in an exponentially growing sea of images? Technical details aside, photographs that tell a story will always stand out from the rest no matter what kind of camera was used. If all you have is a phone camera then use it! When I first started out I was taking stills with my video camera. Some of those images are still in my portfolio and I’ve even sold a few. This week’s blog isn’t about technical specs it’s about telling a story with your photos and you can do that no matter what equipment you have. Trust me, there are many people out there with expensive cameras and lenses that don’t produce good images.


A mother’s love…

I can’t tell you how to tell a story with your photos, that is something that comes from within. But you know it when you see it. A good start is to pick your favourite photography topic such as landscapes or wildlife and do an internet image search. Start browsing through the photos. Make note of the ones that made you stop and the ones that made you click to see more. Also make note of the ones you passed by without looking. Then ask yourself what did those images have that made you stop as opposed to the ones you passed over. Was it the vibrant colors of a sunset? Was it the subject? The composition? A look of deep thought in the eyes of a gorilla? The eerily intelligent and predatory stare of a crocodile? All of the above? Some of the above? There’s a certain undefinable something that these images have that draws you in and keeps you there. These are the kind of images you need to create in order to stand out from the pack. Images that make people stop and look. But don’t ever copy. You need to discover your own style. It may seem like a long journey (and it is) but finding your voice as a photographer is a rewarding journey that never ends.

A Man O’ War illuminated with a small maglite.

As I go through my images from a shoot I am looking for a few things. Composition, lighting, and the technical quality of a photo are essential ingredients but I look even further. Does the photo tell a story? Will it elicit an emotional response? Does it draw the viewer in? What do I want to say with this? Is it interesting? Many times with landscape photography the shot has been well prepared in advance so I ask myself those questions long before I ever press the shutter release. When it comes to wildlife photography I try to capture moments or behaviour that are interesting or compelling in some way. Storytelling is an art but once you start to recognise what it is that draws you in to a photograph it becomes easier to notice those moments when you’re out in the field and start creating compelling photos of your own. Another idea is to think outside of the box and be open to experimentation and perhaps try out new techniques that not everybody else is doing. They may work out or they may not, but you may just discover a great technique that can add to your “toolbox”. As the Weather Channel app says “It’s amazing out there” so get out there and start taking great photos!


Mark Andrew Thomas
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